WH: GOP drags feet on ambassadors

The White House accused GOP senators of playing partisan politics with the president's ambassador selections, blasting delays of 26 pending nominations as "simply unacceptable."

"Unfortunately, because of partisan delays by Senate Republicans, these qualified nominees to critical national security posts have been forced to put their lives on hold and wait indefinitely to be confirmed," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

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According to the administration, 26 ambassadorial nominees are waiting on the Senate floor, and the president's selections have been waiting an average of 262 days. Earnest said separately that 70 national security nominations, including officials at the Department of Defense, the State Department, and other foreign-focused agencies, were pending as well.

"We urge Republicans in the Senate to stop playing political games, and let these individuals get to work on behalf of the American people," Earnest said. "Fielding a full team abroad is not a partisan priority, it's an American necessity."

But some of the president's nominees have been held up over bipartisan concern over their qualifications.

For instance, earlier this year, Obama named donor George Tsunis as the next ambassador to Norway. But during his confirmation hearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tsunis acknowledged that he had never been to Norway and mistakingly said the the country had a president, when in fact it has a king and prime minister.

He also described one of Norway's major political parties as a "fringe element."

Democrats, including Minnesota Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar have said they would not vote for Tsunis, opening questions about whether the president is submitting qualified nominees.

Earnest defended the administration's nominees, saying all but 10 of the 26 currently pending on the Senate floor were experienced diplomats.

"So the objections that you've raised don't explain their obstruction to those 16 career Foreign Service officers," Earnest said.

The White House spokesman also said the administration retained "full confidence" in the abilities of its political nominees, calling it "shortsighted to automatically rule out nominees that aren't career Foreign Service officers."

"If that were the case, that means that Caroline Kennedy would not be serving as the ambassador to Japan," Earnest said. "I think most people, even some Republicans, would agree that she's doing a pretty good job over there."